OBJECTIVE: Aldose reductase (ALR) is involved in diabetic microvascular damage via the polyol pathway. A recent meta-analysis found genetic variation in the ALR gene (AKR1B1) to be significantly associated with diabetic retinopathy (DR). We investigated the genetic association of AKR1B1 with DR. RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS: The study enrolled 909 individuals with diabetes. Participants were genotyped for an AKR1B1 (CA)n microsatellite and 14 tag single nucleotide polymorphisms, and ophthalmological assessment was performed. RESULTS: A total of 514 individuals were found to have DR. rs9640883 was significantly associated with DR (P = 0.0005). However, AKR1B1 variation was not independently associated with DR development after adjusting for relevant clinical parameters. rs9640883 was associated with duration of diabetes (P = 0.002). CONCLUSION: Many previous reports have failed to account for known risk factors for DR. The commonly reported association of AKR1B1 with DR may be due to an association of the gene with younger age at onset of diabetes.